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The Noulens Affair*

  • Frederick S. Litten


The arrest in Shanghai of Hilaire Noulens and his “wife” (their real names were Yakov Rudnik and Tatyana Moiseenko, see below), members of the Communist International's (Comintern) apparat in East Asia, the seizure of a cache of documents concerning the Far Eastern Bureau (FEB) of the Comintern and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the subsequent trial of the Noulens by the Chinese authorities, and the interest taken in the case by numerous Communist-led organizations and fellow-travelling intellectuals was a cause célèbre in the early 1930s, in the foreign community in China as well as in Europe and North America. Despite having been compared to the notorious Sacco-Vanzetti case, and having been nearly as spectacular and important as the 1927 raid on the Soviet Embassy in Peking, the Noulens Affair as a whole has not been the subject of any reliable study.



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1. Often called Dalbyuro (Dal'nevostochnoe byuro), in Chinese Yuandongju. This is not to be confused with the Dongfangbu (Eastern Secretariat or Oriental Secretariat), cf. n. 75.

2. China Press, 12 July 1932. Agence Radiotelegraphique de l'lndochine et du Pacifique (Agence Indo-Pacifique), 14 July 1932.

3. The article by Platten, Fritz Nicolaus, “‘Ein Kampf um Leben und Tod’ – Die Affare Ruegg 1931,” Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte, Vol. 41 (1991), pp. 5262, has been the most reliable yet, but treats only a few aspects of the Noulens Affair and contains no source notes (according to personal information, it is based mainly on the documents of Noulens' lawyer Jean Vincent, the Shanghai Municipal Police file and Swiss records).

4. For example: Deakin, F. W. and Storry, G. R., Richard Sorge (München, 1965), pp. 89ff.Mackinnon, Janice R. and Mackinnon, Stephen R., Agnes Smedley – The Life and Times of an American Radical (Stanford, CA, 1988), pp. 148–49. An exception regarding the sources is Magnenoz, Robert, De Confucius a Lenine (Saigon, 1950/1951), pp. 113ff. Magnenoz (a.k.a. Jobez) had been head of the Suréte in Shanghai at the time of the Noulens Affair. Carr, E. H., The Twilight of the Comintern 1930–1935 (London, 1982), does not refer to the Noulens Affair – a reflection also of the relative neglect in the Western sinological literature, on which much of Carr's CCP chapter is based. Cf. Harrison, James P., The Long March To Power (London, 1973), p. 154. As far as I know, Noulens (Niu Lan) has left no trace in Chinese works of history. He is marginally mentioned in Chaolin, Zheng, 70 Jahre Rebell, edited by Benton, Gregor (Frankfurt a. M, 1991), p. 329.

5. The microfilm edition of the SMP files (by Scholarly Resources) lacks the two most voluminous files on Noulens and associates (National Archives (NA): RG 263: D2510 and D2527), but I was able to consult Fritz N. Platten about their contents, with which he is well acquainted. For my own purposes, I mainly used a British analysis, which is comprehensive and enhanced by intelligence data, dated 7 March 1932 (NA: RG 263: D2527/45; in the following cited as NA: D2527/45); this I obtained directly from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. A preliminary inventory of the SMP files is found in: Shanghai Municipal Police Files 1894–1949, with an introduction by Dr Marcia R. Ristaino (Wilmington, DE, n.d.).

6. The documents comprise autobiographical sketches and a report on the Ruegg case, all written by the Noulens. These documents were copied by Platten in Russian in the Comintern Archives (CA) in Moscow (Fonds 495/71) and translated by me. The first autobiographical sketch by Rudnik (i.e. Hilaire Noulens) was written in August 1924, the second is dated 26 October 1939 (with some overlap in content), both will hereafter be cited as CA: Rudnik; the first by Moiseenko (i.e. Madame Noulens) is dated September 1939, the second is undated, both will be cited as CA: Moiseenko; the report on the Ruegg case, signed by both Rudnik (as Marin, see below) and Moiseenko, is dated 9 September 1939 and will be cited as CA: Report.

7. The British Public Record Office holds some documents on the Noulens Affair; to judge by their titles it is unlikely that they would offer more than the records consulted. See the entries on Noulens, and Ruegg, for the years 1931 to 1935 in: Index to the Correspondence of the Foreign Office (Nendeln, Liechtenstein, 1969); Indexes to the “Green” or Secret Papers Among the General Correspondence of the Foreign Office 1921–1938 (Nendeln, Liechtenstein: 1969).

8. NA: D2527/45. Duncanson, Dennis J., “Ho-chi-Minh in Hong Kong, 1931–1932,” The China Quarterly, No. 57 (March 1974), pp. 84100, here pp. 85–88.

9. According to NA: D2527/41, Noulens applied for P. O. Box 206 on 24 March 1930. Sometimes, the P. O. Box number discovered on Ducroux is given as 208 (e.g. Magnenoz, De Confucius a Lénine, p. 113) or as 205 (e.g. Journal de Shanghai, 26 April 1932), but a Dutch report, written before Noulens' arrest, also gives the number as 206. Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken,’ s-Gravenhage (MBZ): S IE 52/1931 (13 June 1931). Noulens used eight different P. O. Boxes, but they do not seem to be listed anywhere.

10. Another consequence of the arrest of Ducroux was the arrest on 6 June 1931 of Nguyen Ai Quoc, later known as Ho Chi Minh. See Duncanson, “Ho-chi-Minh.” Ministère des Affaires Étrangeres, Paris (MAE): Serie Asie-Océanie, sous-série Affaires communes, Vol. 91, Nguyen Ai Quoc. His arrest was not the result of Noulens' arrest, as Deakin and Stony, Richard Sorge, p. 98, claim; nor was the arrest and subsequent execution of the General Secretary of the CCP, Xiang Zhongfa, on 22 June 1931 (as claimed by Duncanson, “Ho-chi-Minh,” p. 88), but of the arrest on 26 April 1931 and subsequent “turning” of Gu Shunzhang, head of CCP intelligence (see below). Yingchao, Deng, “Guanyu Xiang Zhongfa panbian de wentian” (“On the question of Xiang Zhongfa's treason”), Zhonggong dangshi yanjiu (Research on CCP History), No. 3 (1989), pp. 12.Faligot, Roger and Kauffer, Rémi, Kang Sheng et les services secrets chinois (1927–1987) (Paris, 1987), pp. 86ff. There exists a somewhat tenuous connection between Noulens and the killing of relatives of Gu Shunzhang (which, according to the testimony of a self-styled accomplice, was ordered by Zhou Enlai) in the form of a document found with Noulens, which informs the Eastern Secretariat of the Comintern about the Communists keeping watch on Gu's family. See NA: D2527/45.

11. I will use the Russian acronym for Tikho-Okeanskii Sekretariat Shankhai for the Shanghai bureau, although this expression might not be genuine, cf. NA: D2527/45. On the relation between TOSS and PPTUS see n. 92.

12. NA: D2527/45.

13. On extra-territoriality:All About Shanghai – A Standard Guidebook (Shanghai, 1934/35, reprinted with an introduction by H. J. Lethbridge, Oxford, 1986), pp. 21, 25.

14. MAE: Série Asie-Océanie, sous-série Affaires communes, Vol. 92, Affaire Noulens (alias Ruegg); in the following cited as MAE: 92.

15. CA: Report. The lawyer would have been Dr Friedrich Wilhelm of the Shanghai law firm Musso, Fischer and Wilhelm, which had been suspected for quite some time of being involved in Communist activities. E.g. MBZ: 21 August 1929. Later, the Noulens' lawyer was Jean Vincent, who had been “mobilized” by Moscow to defend the Noulens. Cf. Platten, “Ein Kampf.”

16. Actually, this should have been Saignelégier in the Swiss Kanton Jura.

17. Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv, Bern (BAR): E 2200 Shanghai 1/112. As early as 3 August 1931, when an extradition of Noulens to the Chinese military authorities was mooted, his lawyer Wilhelm claimed Noulens' real name to be Beuret. BAR: E 2001 C 3/85 Beuret – Ruegg. Cf. Platten, “Ein Kampf,” p. 55.

18. BAR: E 2001 C 3/85 Beuret – Ruegg. The consul-general had already had quite serious doubts about Noulens having lived for years in Basle but not being able to answer questions about the city and the local dialect. See also Platten, “Ein Kampf,” p. 56.

19. MAE: 92 (first entry, 3 August 1931). The first of many, not only in France. Platten's date for the start of the “rescue operation” is about a fortnight too late. Platten, “Ein Kampf,” p. 56.

20. Müzenberg, Willi, “Fallt dem Henker in den Arm!” Inprekorr, 1931, p. 1836. At first the name of the person concerned was not given (just the Swiss nationality), allegedly because Moscow did not know under which name Noulens had been arrested. Gross, Babette, Willi Münzenberg (Stuttgart, 1967), pp. 214–15. On Münzenberg see also: Lazitch, Branko, Biographical Dictionary of the Comintern (Stanford, CA, 1986), pp. 330–31.

21. E.g. The China Press, 6 September 1931;The Chinese Nation, 9 September 1931. The documents were at that time numbered consecutively within “national” categories with A for China. Cf. NA: RG 263: D2510 (boxes 11–18). They have, to my knowledge, never been used by sinologists. The Communist press declared these documents to be forgeries. Inprekorr, 1931, p. 1982.

22. BAR: E 2001 C 3/85 Beuret-Ruegg. MAE: 92.

23. CA: Report.

24. Ibid. See also Inprekorr, 1931, p. 2288. Magnenoz, De Confucius a Lenine, p. 115.

25. MAE: 92. NA: D2527/45. MBZ: S III 13/1931 (27 October 1931). Meanwhile, the Nanjing High Court had confirmed in September the decision to hand over the Noulens to the Chinese authorities. Auswartiges Amt Politisches Archiv, Bonn (AAPA): 4 OA Politik: 12 China, Bd. 5.

26. Journalde Shanghai, 26 April 1932. AAPA: 4 OA Politik 12 China, Bd. 5. CA: Report gives 19 December 1931, said to have been the day of Chiang Kai-shek's resignation from! the National Government, but this took place on 16 December.

27. Litten, Frederick S., “Einstein and the Noulens Affair,” British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 24, No. 4 (1991), pp. 465–67. Cf. The New York Times, 11 November 1931.

28. MacKinnon and MacKinnon, Agnes Smedley, p. 149. Smedley had left Shanghai temporarily on 16 June 1931 for Canton. Secret Memorandum of the SMP (December 1932), in MBZ: G 150/1933.

29. Münzenberg, “Fallt dem Henker in den Arm!” pp. 1859–860. L. Gibarty, “Die Weltkampagne für die Rettung Rueggs,” Inprekorr, 1931, pp. 2366ff. Münzenberg, Willi, “Lebenslangliches Zuchthaus für die Rueggs,” Inprekorr, 1932, pp. 2229ff. The campaign had begun badly in the United States, because the name Ruegg had been garbled to Bruegg (NA: Rg 59: 393.1121-Bruegg, Walter; information from Platten).

30. Nevertheless Jean Vincent told him to stick to that identity. CA: Report.

31. The long duration of the pre-trial examinations was explained with the large amount of documents to be sifted. AAPA: 4 OA Politik 12 China, Bd. 5. MAE: 92.

32. MAE: 92. BAR: E 2200 Shanghai 1/112. The support of the Noulens' aims by Madame Sun Yat-sen and other well-known Chinese led to a short-lived pro forma resignation of the Chinese Minister of Justice. He did not want Chinese justice to be seen to be forced by “outsiders,” but on the other hand he did not want to refuse the wishes of those “outsiders.” When he tendered his resignation, Madame Sun Yat-sen and the others gave in and the resignation could be turned down. AAPA: 4 OA China Politik 12, Bd. 5. The Special Areas District Court or the Second Branch of the Jiangsu High Court, both in Shanghai, would normally have been responsible for the Noulens case. Cf. All About Shanghai, p. 22.

33. Agence lndo-Pacifique, 20 July 1932. The Basler Vorwarts, 27 September 1932, writes that the CCP offered to exchange all missionaries held against the Noulens.

34. For an intensive, if biased, coverage of the pre-trial and trial time, see the numerous articles in Inprekorr, e.g. 1932, pp. 1853ff., 1911ff., 2016, 2046, 2179–180, 2229ff. (front page), 2259–260. A German diplomatic observer was quite doubtful about the trial, too, as it concentrated on just ten documents from the “allegedly very extensive evidence” and seemed “quite summary.” AAPA: 4 OA Politik 12 China, Bd. 5.

35. AAPA: 4 OA Politik 12 China, Bd. 5. According to the court the Noulens violated articles 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 2.1, 2.2 and 4 of a Special Law Concerning the Endangering of the State. Cf. Hsüeh, Chün-Tu, The Chinese Communist Movement 1921–1937 (Stanford, CA, 1960), entry no. 288.

36. On Braun: Litten, Freddy, “Otto Braun in Deutschland 1900–1928,” Internationale Wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der Deutschen Arbeiterbewegung, Vol. 27, No. 2 (1991), pp. 171182.Litten, Freddy, Otto Brauns fruhes Wirken in China (1932–1935) (München, 1988). On Siebler: Mader, Julius, Dr-Sorge-Report (Ost-Berlin, 1984), pp. 174ff. According to MBZ: S III/13 1931 (1 October 1931), Moscow had already in 1931 provided US$100, 000 for an operation of this kind.

37. Mader, Dr-Sorge-Report, p. 179.

38. Johnson, Chalmers, An Instance of Treason (Stanford, CA, 1964), p. 61, note. Also cf. Deakin and Storry, Richard Sorge, p. 100. This led to the error in Litten, Otto Brauns frühes Wirken, p. 16. The Japanese news agency RENGO had erroneously reported the freeing of Noulens as early as February 1932. MBZ: S III 13/1932. See also Gibarti, Louis, “Es kommtauf jede Stunde an!” Inprekorr, 1932, p. 1853. Witold Sworakowski errs in a different direction when he states that Noulens was executed by the Kuomintang in 1932. Sworakowski, Witold S. (ed.), World Communism – A Handbook 1918–1965 (Stanford, CA, 1973), p. 71.

39. Werner, Ruth, Sonjas Rapport (Berlin, 1977), p. 108. Platten told me that Vincent had tried to bribe the judge with this money – unsuccessfully, because the demands were simply too expensive.

40. MAE: 92. AAPA: IV OA Pol. 12, Bd. 7. Document of May 1935 in Vincent-archive (communication by Platten).

41. These photos can be found in MAE: 92. Chen Duxiu was in the same gaol and, according to the document in the Vincent-archives cited above, was given preferential treatment.

42. They declined the “January tranche” of Madame Sun Yat-sen's money. Madame Sun Yat-sen wrote on 3 September 1939 that she had still been trying to get papers for the Noulens when she heard that they had left. Grace Granich/FBI File Section 16/File 100–88434, condensation of letters by Madame Sun Yat-sen (the information was sent to me by Platten who received it from A. Tom Grunfeld).

43. CA: Report, and Rudnik.

44. MAE: 92.

45. After having labelled Noulens as an anti-Trotzkyist as late as May 1935, Jean Vincent severed his connections with the Noulens, Agnes Smedley and Madame Sun Yat-sen, implying that Noulens had left the right track (information by Platten). Also see Gross, Willi Münzenberg, p. 255, n. 1; Utley, Freda, Last Chance in China (Philadelphia, 1947), pp. 2526.

46. Cf. Andrew, Christopher and Gordievsky, Oleg, KGB (London, 1990), pp. 8284.

47. See Martin Wilbur, C. and Lian-Ying How, Julie, Missionaries of Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 1989), pp. 403404.

48. Otdel Mezhdunarodnoi svyazi, i.e. Department for International Liaison.

49. No study of the OMS has been published, but it is sometimes mentioned in the literature, e.g. Lazitch, Branko, “Two instruments of control of the Comintern: the emissaries of the ECCI and the Party representatives in Moscow,” in Drachkovitch, Milorad M. and Lazitch, Branko (eds.), The Comintern: Historical Highlights (New York, 1966), pp. 4565, especially pp. 52–54. Nollau, Günther, Die Internationale (Köln, 1959), pp. 153–55. Andrew and Gordievsky, KGB, passim. Head of the OMS in the 1920s and early 1930s was Osip Piatnitzky.

50. Everything in this part without special attribution to a source is taken from CA: Report. It has to be kept in mind, though, that this report was written nearly a decade after the events.

51. Under that name he held German citizenship. He lived in Shanghai under the name Ochagov, was known in the Comintern as Ognev, later Schneider, and had been one of the Comintern's agents in Prague using the name Kasperskii. CA: Report. Later, he also used the pseudonym Arthur Schmidt (this can be deduced from documents in MBZ: S III 13/1930, S III 13/1931 and S III 52/1930 Opruiers), and this name appears in Faligot and Kauffer, Kang Sheng, p. 79, as that of an old colleague of Borodin (no source is given). The Dutch list of suspected persons in Shanghai of 1 August 1930 (MBZ: S III 13/1930) notes that Schmidt had visited China in 1927–28 and had participated in the creation of the League of Young Communists and the Canton uprising. (These lists were compiled by the Secret Service of Netherland India in Batavia/Java, cf. NA: Rg 59: 893.00B/987). According to In den Fängen des NKWD (Berlin, 1991), p. 69–70, Friedrich Feyerherd alias Fritz Keller was bom on 18 January 1897 in Kishinev, Russia, worked in the Soviet embassy in Berlin, was active for the OMS, and was sentenced to death on 27 October 1937 by a Soviet military court.

52. According to the Noulens' report he had been a member of the Org-department of the ECCI (Executive Committee of the Comintern) in Hankou under the name Albrecht; he also used the pseudonym Wudro (Vudro). Later he used the name Dr Max Haber. Lazitch, Biographical Dictionary, p. 1, lists one A. E. Abramovich, who also used the names A. Albrecht and Alexander and was working for the Comintern from 1925 to the early 1930s (also cf. Lazitch, “Two instruments of control,” pp. 46–47). It is likely that Alexander (or Dr Alexander), to whom some letters found with the Noulens were addressed, was Abramovich. Cf. NA: D2527/45. It is also possible that Abramovich, using the name Albrecht, A., was one of the undersigned of the “Lettre de Shanghai” in March 1927. Cf. Isaacs, Harold, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (Stanford, 1961), pp. 114ff.

53. This is quite certainly the Walter Lowenheim (Lowe) described in: Biographisches Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration, Bd. 1 (München, 1980), pp. 454–55.

54. Before going to Shanghai she had been a secretary at the OMS under the name Benin.

55. Cf. Adreβbuch für das Deutschtum in Ostasien, Jahrgang IV (Shanghai, 1928), p. 46.

56. The Adreβbuch für das Deutschtum in Ostasien, Jahrgang V (Shanghai, 1930), p. 50, lists 15 staff, the following edition (Shanghai, 1931/1932), p. 50, only 5.

57. According to CA: Report; this date seems too late to me.

58. The Adreβbuchfür das Deutschtum in Ostasien, Jahrgang V (Shanghai, 1930), p. 50, lists one Gustav Wricke on the staff of the Metropolitan Trading Co.

59. The Dutch list of 1 June 1930 (MBZ: S III 13/1930) mentions that the financial situation of the Metropolitan Trading Co. had much improved recently, because Moscow had given a great amount of money to keep the firm as well as the Comintern operation running.

60. CA: Report gives autumn 1930, but Arthur Schmidt, who is identical with Feyerherd, is listed already on 1 August 1930 as having arrived in Shanghai. MBZ: S III 13/1930.

61. This is not evident in Adreβbuchfür das Deutschtum in Ostasien, Jahrgang VI (Shanghai, 1931/1932), p. 50, where both Feyerherd (Hamburg) and Abramovich (Shanghai) are listed as partners.

62. According to the Dutch list of 1 July 1930 (MBZ: S ffl 13/1930) Eberlein was trying to establish in Shanghai a liaison bureau for contact with the German Communist Party. On Eberlein see for example Weber, Hermann, Die Wandlung des Deutschen Kommunismus, Vol. 2 (biographies) (Frankfurt a. M., 1969), pp. 101102.Der Nachrichtendienst der KPD (Berlin, 1993), p. 26 and passim.

63. NA: D2527/45 states that up to December 1930 the source of credits was Wudro (i.e. Abramovich), then he received some kind of pay-off and Schneider (i.e. Feyerherd) took his place (cf. CA: Report). According to this analysis a letter by Noulens dated 10 June 1931 and addressed to “Dear Doctor” seems to indicate that Abramovich was removed “under a cloud.” A possible background to Abramoyich's withdrawal is given by Ypsilon, , Pattern For World Revolution (Chicago, 1947), pp. 134–38. Abramovich could be Comrade L, but the data do not fit exactly, and the book as a whole seems somewhat unreliable. Utley, Last Chance in China, pp. 26–27, on the other hand, seems to believe the story. When Abramovich, alias Max Haber, left Shanghai, the Dutch consul-general warned his Foreign Ministry about him and thought it a good idea to put the Dutch Intelligence Service on alert. MBZ: S III 52/1930 Opruiers (30 January 1931). Haber had, in fact, already been on the Dutch list of 17 December 1929 (MBZ). The information given in the Dutch list of 24 January 1933 (MBZ: S III 13/1933) that Haber had left Shanghai after the arrest of Noulens is obviously erroneous.

64. It does no longer appear in Adreβbuch für das Deutschtum in Ostasien, Jahrgang VII (Shanghai, 1933), or in the Dutch lists in 1932, but is mentioned in the list of 24 January 1933 as having formerly been connected with the Comintern. MBZ: S III 13/1933.

65. Information by Togal-Werk Lugano-Massagno, 17 July 1992.

66. Utley, Last Chance in China, p. 24.

67. See Scalapino, Robert A., The Japanese Communist Movement 1920–1966 (Berkeley, 1967), especially p. 40. Lazitch, Biographical Dictionary, pp. 412–13.

68. This time as Samuel Herssens. NA: D2527/41. CA: Report gives as arrival date February 1930; NA: D2527/45 and MAE: 92 give 19 March.

69. Therefore the assumption that Noulens had been the head or a leading member of the FEB and/or TOSS is wrong. I am uncertain what to make of Richard Sorge's statement that Noulens had been the head of the org-section of the FEB. Willoughby, Charles A., Shanghai Conspiracy (New York, 1952), pp. 189190; also cf. Chang Kuo-t'ao, cited in Harrison, The Long March, p. 551. Rudnik never sees himself as a member of the FEB in CA: Report, although he is listed in the accounts (as Henry, see below). There also remains the question about the relationship between the OMS in Shanghai and the FEB, which cannot be answered with the sources at hand. However, Rudnik seems to have been subject to directions by the FEB in some instances. I have the impression that at least de facto the organizational structure was not too rigid. Also cf. n. 92.

70. Also cf. NA: D2527/45.

71. In some cases at least, Noulens used superencypherment for encrypting his letters, first transforming the message (in case it was to be sent in German) using the “Rudolf-MosseCode” (a widespread commercial code) and then encyphering it by non-carrying addition of figures gained by turning a sentence from a book (“The Lion and the Lamb” by P. Oppenheim) into numbers (straddling-checkerboard-method). MBZ: S111/52 1932. This contrasts with the method of, for example, Richard Sorge's group, which seems not to have used a code. Cf. Kahn, David, The Codebreakers (New York, 1967), pp. 650ff. Mader, Dr-Sorge-Report, pp. 400ff. The system of communication channels, most of them via Berlin, is described in NA: D2527/45.

72. Only the Profintern and the MOPR (International Red Help) took care of that themselves.

73. See the descriptions in NA: D2527/45.

74. Of course, apart from the Comintern the Soviet intelligence services were also quite active in Shanghai, although only in connection with Richard Sorge and the GRU has this topic been discussed in the literature. A lot of people not mentioned here appear in the Dutch lists of Communist suspects in Shanghai in connection with the Comintern; whether justified or not cannot be decided.

75. A FEB had already been in operation in 1921 and must have been in existence in later years, although continuity cannot be proved. The FEB here in question was probably a branch of the Eastern Secretariat of the ECCI, although only the ECCI is mentioned in CA: Report. Cf. Carr, E. H., Socialism in One Country, Vol. 3, part 2 (London, 1964), pp. 605, 908–909; Zhonggongdangshi shijian mingci renwujianshi (Short Explanations of Events, Termini and Names in CCP History) (Xi'an, 1985), p. 482; Wilbur and How, Missionaries of Revolution, passim. Willoughby, Shanghai Conspiracy, pp. 302ff., has a different story of the FEB's affiliation (subordination to the West European Bureau in Berlin), which is partly followed by Giinther Nollau, Die Internationale, p. 158. On the political activity of the FEB see Yang Kuisong, “‘Lisan luxian’ de xingcheng ji Zhonggong zhongyang yu Gongchan Guoji he Yuandongju de zhenglun” (“The emergence of the ‘[Li-]Lisan-line’ and the dispute between the Central Committee oftheCCPandthe Comintern and the FEB”), Jindaishi yanjiu (Studies on Recent History), No. 1 (1991), pp. 196–220. Noveyshaya Istoriya Kitaya 1928–1949 (Moskva, 1984), p. 41. Richard Thornton, The Comintern and the Chinese Communists, 1928–1931 (Seattle, 1969), pp. 118–19. Benjamin Yang, “Complexity and reasonability: reassessment of the Li Lisan adventure,” The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No. 21 (January 1989), pp. 111–141. Information can also be found in NA: D2527/45. It has been claimed by Thornton, The Comintern, pp. 118–19, that the Kuomintang authorities had a spy inside the FEB, who wrote a report in mid-1931. I rather believe that, if he really existed, this spy was a member of the CCP in Shanghai and in contact with the FEB, otherwise his output seems to be a bit meagre on the FEB (if it was not censored in this respect).

76. Eisler himself said he stayed in China from 1929 to 1931. Mader, Julius, Dr Sorge funkt aus Tokyo (Ost-Berlin, 1966), p. 93. On Eisler, see for example: Geschichte der Deutschen Arbeiterbewegung – Biographisches Lexikon (Ost-Berlin, 1970), pp. 112–13.Weber, Die Wandlung, pp. 105–106. Eisler certainly was, at one time, a loser in the German Communist Party's internal fights. Cf. Kuo-T'ao, Chang, The Rise of the Chinese Communist Party – 1928–1938 (Lawrence, KS, 1972), p. 126. Eisler is also, of course, Luo Bo Te. Cf. Yang Kuisong, “The emergence of the Li-Lisan-Line,” pp. 202, 210–11, where he is described as a thorn in Li Lisan's side. See also Yang, “Complexity and reasonability,” p. 122.

77. In some reports also written as Austin. It is quite probable that he used the pseudonym Richard Allen, though the identification with Dillon or Dillen is less certain. I doubt whether Ryl'skii was Werner Nehm, as was surmised by the police. NA: D2527/45. Also cf. NA: RG 263: D3328. With some certainty, on the other hand, Ryl'skii is the Pole whom Chang Kuo-t'ao so despised. Chang Kuo-t'ao, The Rise of the Chinese Communist Party, pp. 145–47. The FEB representative Ao Si Ding, mentioned in Yang, “The emergence of the Li-Lisan-Line,” p. 202, is Ryl'skii, too.

78. Chang Kuo-t'ao specifies two German representatives having been sent to China in summer 1929. Harrison, The Long March, p. 551, citing Chang, gives the names as Ai Wei Er Te and Hei Ke Er Te, and assumes they might be Gerhart Eisler and Fritz Heckert. Although Eisler was, as has been shown, at that time the political representative (at least, there is no indication that he left China during that time), I would venture that Chang confused Arthur Ewert (see below) with the Comintern representative in 1929. (A Soviet agent called Effert was in Shanghai and then Hankou at the end of 1929, according to MBZ: 12 October and 17 December 1929; nothing further seems to be known about him.) The second representative is more enigmatic, since it cannot be Heckert. The identifications in Chang Kuo-t'ao's autobiography – August Thalheimer and Heinrich Brandler – have already been recognized as “pure myth” by Carr. Chang Kuo-t'ao, The Rise of the Chinese Communist Party, p. 126. Carr, E.H., Foundations of a Planned Economy, Vol. 3, part 3 (London, 1978), p. 779, n. 20.

79. According to information by Markus Wehner (Berlin), an Englishman called Alex Massy is mentioned, together with Gerhard [Eisler] and Fricke [Wricke?], in a Russian file on Paul Rakow as having been in Shanghai at this time. Cf. n. 89.

80. Hardy, George, Die Welt – ein schwieriges Pfiaster (Ost-Berlin, 1957).

81. Cf. NA: D2527/45 (Leon).

82. Rudnik is uncertain about the pseudonym. NA: D2527/45 identifies Willy with the KIM representative, but also avers that Willy and Wilhelm are one person, which is wrong (see below).

83. His cover had been blown, see MBZ: S III 13/1930 (lists of 1 June and 1 July 1930, George Hall alias George Hardy).

84. He was tentatively identified by the police with the American journalist J. H. Dolsen (NA: D2527/45), which would be wrong according to Rudnik. The latter gives his real name as sounding like Stolyarsko. Deakin and Storry, Richard Sorge, p. 401, mistakenly assume that Leon was Eisler.

85. Kennedy was identified by the police with Albert Stewart, alias Isidor Dreasen, alias J. W. Mills, alias James Wallace, who had been imprisoned in Manchester in 1930 for three months. Alice – actually a code name in the accounts and thus probably not her real one, as Rudnik implies – was identified as his wife or mistress, having formerly used the name Margaret Undjus. NA: D2527/45. Valtin, Jan, Tagebuch derHolle (Köln, 1957), p. 540, gives Charles Krumbein alias Albert Stewart alias Dreazen. According to the Dutch list of 1 October 1931 (MBZ: S in 13/1931) Stewart was said by Noulens' lawyer Wilhelm to have been head of the PPTUS.

86. The British analysis came to the correct conclusion that Rosa was the wife or mistress of Ryl'skii. NA: D2527/45.

87. This might be White in NA: D2527/45. According to the documents found with Noulens, White had been in Shanghai from September 1930 to March 1931, when he received 300 Gold Dollars for travelling expenses on 23 March 1931. White had his own section within the FEB, which received about £1, 300 a month, got the highest salary (250 Gold Dollars), and was thought by the British analyst(s) to have been connected with military work, though, on very sparse evidence. The Noulens' report states that Tom had been the Soviet military attache in Peking in 1927, which would point to Roman Vaitsekhovich Longva (a Pole) Later, Longva was a member of the Red Army General Staff where he headed the department of communications. Who was who in the USSR (Metuchen, 1972), p. 354. Also cf. n. 97.

88. Kleins was identified by the Shanghai authorities with Morisev, allegedly President of the KUTV. In the light of the Noulens' report this seems doubtful.

89. If Tom is White, this enigmatic third man might be Paul in NA: D2527/45. The German Communist Paul Rakow is said to have worked in the FEB in Shanghai between July 1928 and October 1930 and to have arrived in Moscow in November 1930 (information by Markus Wehner); so he, too, might be Paul in NA: D2527/45, but he is unlikely to have been the third military advisor. Paul was also a pseudonym of Klaas Selman alias Karl Rimm, who was Sorge's deputy and then successor in Shanghai. Mader, Dr-Sorge-Report, p. 526–27; Werner, Sonjas Rapport, pp. 50, 79f, 170; Medvedev, Roy A., Let History Judge (New York, 1972), p. 217(Karl Ramm).

90. Mif was believed by the police to have used the pseudonym Petershevski. NA: D2527/45. According to Thornton, The Comintern, p. 208, Mif arrived in November 1930 at the earliest; Zhongguo gongchandang liushi nian (60 Years CCP), Vol. 1 (Beijing, 1984), p. 161, n. 1, states that Mif was dispatched to China in spring 1930 and arrived in December 1930.

91. Cf. NA: D2527/45 (Robert). He cannot therefore have left after Noulens' arrest; see e.g. Willoughby, Shanghai Conspiracy, p. 190.

92. This is my conclusion. The sources are not really clear about the relationship between the FEB and the TOSS and whether the TOSS was part of the PPTUS or the PPTUS itself. Cf. NA: D2527/45 (in one place the Shanghai PPTUS is mentioned to have been in an “experimental stage”). CA: Report. Kennedy, M., “Das Pazifik-Gewerkschaftssekretariat und seine Tatigkeit,” Die Rote Gewerkschafts-Internationale, Vol. 11, No. 22 (30 November 1931). On the PPTUS, whose head until 1929 was Earl Browder (a name conspicuously absent from the Noulens' report, although he is said to have been in China in 1927 and the first half of 1928, cf. Lazitch, Biographical Dictionary, pp. 46–47), see also Carr, Foundations, Vol. 3, part 3, pp. 1040ff. A PPTUS-conference was held in August 1929 concurrently in Vladivostok and Shanghai, because some participants could not reach Vladivostok. Pravda, 21 September 1929. See also the reports in connection with this conference in MBZ: e.g. a memorandum, dated 5 July 1929. Hardy, Die Welt, p. 303.

93. The source might conceivably have been Walter, from whom 100, 000 Reichsmark were received on 4 November 1930. NA: D2527/45. There is no clue to the identification of Walter. Connections between the military section and GRU-groups in China certainly existed (cf. the case of Otto Braun below), but no details are known. See also Werner, Sonjas Rapport, p. 81.

94. This information is from NA: D2527/45.

95. Cf. n. 10.

96. Also cf. NA: D2527/45. The British analyst(s) established with the help of the Japanese authorities, that Volinskaya used the name Mary Seibeno in Dairen and Mary Heiber in Harbin, from where she wrote a letter on 17 June 1931. The MOPR representative Dolsen had also left Shanghai (according to NA: D2527/45 (Leon) already in March 1931, therefore a connection with the Gu case seems unlikely). Leon/Jacky, described here as secretary of the TOS (i.e. PPTUS, or did Rudnik mean TOSS?), had been sent to Manila at the end of March 1931 for the founding congress of the Philippine Communist Party. CA: Report.

97. NA: D2527/45 (Willy/Wilhelm). This is based on a telegram from Berlin, dated 7 May 1931: “Wilhelm and Freilich arrived.” Freilich was possibly Frolich alias Theo, mentioned by Sorge as head of a GRU-group in Shanghai with the rank of a major-general in the Red Army, who left Shanghai in 1931 because he could not contact the Chinese Red Army and thus fulfil his mission. Willoughby, Shanghai Conspiracy, p. 189. Interestingly, Freilich is said in a document found with the Noulens to have been the creator of a Military Department of the Politburo of the CCP. NA: D2527/45 (name index). Thus it may be that Freilich was Tom alias Longva. Cf. n. 87.

98. Conversation between Austin (i.e. Ryl'skii) and Siang and Golubien on 7 April 1931. Document A 46. Cf. n. 21. Siang has been identified with Xiang Zhongfa (however, I wonder why his name would have been used practically en clair); Golubien (or Golubiev) with a member of the CC of the CCP, one of the “Three” at the top of the CCP – Siang, Moskwin (Zhou Enlai) and Golubiev – whose “real name” is transcribed as Dzung Zau-yue. This would point to Golubiev having been Chen Shaoyu alias Wang Ming. See especially the “Chart of Organization of CCP as detailed in Ex. FI (1)” in NA: D2527/45.

99. This is in doubt, see NA: D2527/45 (Kennedy).

100. Stewart left Shanghai on 27 June, Alice on 4 July 1931, both for Berlin. NA: D2527/45. See also MBZ: S III 13/1931, list of 1 October 1931.

101. Only Stewart and Alice were identified with some certainty.

102. NA: D2527/45. Jane Degras believes the FEB to have been dissolved after Noulens' arrest, but she is mistaken. Degras, Jane (ed.), The Communist International 1919–1943, Vol. 3, 1929–43 (London, 1965), p. 220. Also cf. Magnenoz, De Confucius a Lenine, p. 119.

103. NA: D2527/45. Secret Report of the Special Branch of the SMP, dated 2 May 1933, in MBZ: S III 52/1933. When Sorge was seen with Doenitz, he was suspected to be an agent of the PPTUS. MBZ: S III 13/1933. Deakin and Storry, Richard Sorge, p. 97.

104. NA: D2527/45. Of course, the police only knew the pseudonyms, in this case Schneider and Willy. The statement on Feyerherd was “based upon very secret, but completely reliable, information since received”; perhaps a hint at communications intelligence.

105. Haferkom, Katja, “Kämpfer für das deutsche und das brasilianische Volk,” Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung, 1968, pp. 102113, here p. 109–110. Haferkom was not able to find out anything substantial on Ewert's job in China. Also cf. Weber, Die Wandlung, pp. 113–15. Ewert had been a very important member of the German Communist Party, but, like Eisler, had at some time fallen out of favour.

106. Krymov, A. G., “Manfred Shtern – General Kleber,” Narody Azii i Afrikii (Peoples of Asia and Africa), No. 1 (1978) pp. 5967, here p. 60. According to this source, Ryl'skii was responsible for organizatorial questions.

107. Cf. Litten, Otto Brauns friihes Wirken, pp. 13ff.

108. Stern, alias Fred, is better known as General Kleber in the Spanish Civil War. Krymov, “Manfred Shtern.” In den Fängen des NKWD, p. 230. See also, with great reservation, Ypsilon, Pattern for World Revolution, pp. 422, 428. Stern is quite certainly the military representative admired by Chang Kuo-t'ao, The Rise of the Chinese Communist Party, p. 172.

109. Steve Nelson, James R. Barrett, Rob Ruck, Steve Nelson, American Radical (Pittsburgh, PA, 1981), pp. 144–152. Also cf. Werner, Sonjas Rapport, pp. 81–85.

110. The article by Kennedy, “Das Pazifik-Gewerkschaftssekretariat,” is no help here.

111. Cf. Haferkom, “Arthur Ewert”; Krymov, “Manfred Shtern.”

112. This was No. 30C, Central Arcade, where many of the incriminating documents had been found, so Noulens vigorously denied his identity with Alison.

113. NA: D2527/45. Also cf. Mader, Dr-Sorge-Report, p. 171. It is not mentioned in CA: Report or Rudnik, but nothing about the time between his China missions can be found there.

114. Cf. NA: D2527/45. The Shanghai police assumed that Noulens also used the pseudonym Coty, because the inner envelopes of certain letters sent to the FEB were addressed to this name, and because Madame Noulens was listed as Frau or F. Coty. Actually, Madame Noulens was Coty, and it is highly unlikely that they both used the internal pseudonyms in the form “Mr and Mrs Coty.” CA: Report.

115. She quite certainly brought the Vandercruyssen passport for Noulens with her.

116. The information on the passports, etc., according to MAE: 92; NA: D2527/45. Cf. Platten, “Ein Kampf.”

117. CA: Report.

118. The Herssens passport was meant only for the journey to Shanghai. For his work there and any return to Moscow, genuine passports had been promised. CA: Report.

119. BAR: E 2001 C 3/85 Beuret-Ruegg. Egger, Heinz, Die Entstehung der Kommunislischen Partei und des Kommunistischen Jugendyerbandes der Schweiz (Zurich, 1952), pp. 186ff., 211–212. Humbert-Droz, Jules, Mon Évolution du Tolstoïsme au Communisme, 1891–1921 (Neuchâtel, 1969), pp. 409410. Platten, “Ein Kampf,” p. 62. Fritz Nicolaus Platten is preparing a biography of his father and of Paul Rüegg.

120. NA: D2527/45. MAE: 92.

121. BAR: E 2001 C 3/85 Beuret-Ruegg.

122. I would like to thank them for their help. The photographs have been published in Platten, “Ein Kampf,” pp. 56–57.

123. BAR: E 2001 C 3/85 Beuret-Ruegg.

124. Poretsky, Elisabeth, Our Own People (London, 1969), p. 64.

125. MBZ: S III/52 1931 (opinion of the Belgian consul-general in Shanghai in 1931); Deakin and Storry, Richard Sorge, p. 89 (Richard Sorge's opinion); BAR: E 2001 C 3/85 Beuret-Ruegg (Fritz Nicolaus Platten's early version);Gross, Willi Münzenberg, p. 235.

126. Poretsky, Our Own People, pp. 62ff. Two years before the publication of Poretsky's book, but without giving a source or reason for her knowledge, Babette Gross also calls Noulens Luft and asserts he was a born Ukrainian; Gross, Willi Münzenberg, p. 235. (Platten informed me that Babette Gross had her knowledge in this case from Elisabeth Poretsky.)

127. Österreichisches Staatsarchiv/Archiv der Republik, Wien (AdR): NPA Präs. 95: 24 Diplomaten 8.

128. Cf. Litten, Freddy, “Die Goldštajn/Goldenstein- Verwechslung,” Südost-Forschungen, Vol. 50 (1991), pp. 245250. One possibility not mentioned in that publication would have been Ka. Volk, who is mentioned in AAPA: R 31734, but not in the records in AdR. He is probably not identical with the Karl Volk (one of the people behind Ypsilon, cf. n. 63) described in Weber, Die Wandlung, pp. 332–33.

129. The following according to CA: Rudnik. Platten, “Ein Kampf,” p. 61, gives the new-style date.

130. Cf. Litten, “Die GoldStajn/Goldenstein-Verwechslung.” He is called Dr Alexander Goldenstein in CA: Rudnik.

131. AdR: NPA Präs. 95: 24 Dipl. 8.

132. Rudnik also used that name throughout CA: Report.

133. CA: Rudnik.

134. It should be noted that one Roudnik is mentioned in a Dutch list, dated 2 June 1927, of Russians connected with Communist propaganda in China; and that a certain S. I. Rydnik is listed on 1 June 1930 as having arrived in Shanghai on 15 April 1930 and having contact with a Soviet merchant and a suspect firm. Both lists in MBZ.

135. Mader, Dr Sorge funkt aus Tokyo, p. 100. See also: Willoughby, Shanghai Conspiracy, p. 308.

136. Information by Dimitri Moiseenko via Platten.

137. The following according to CA: Moiseenko.

138. Cf. Spisok grazhdanskym chinam chetvertogo klassa (Petrograd, 1915), p. 609.

139. In the British analysis of the Noulens case it is noted that her handwriting suggested a better education than Noulens'. NA: D2527/45. Also cf. Poretsky, Our Own People, p. 63.

140. Obviously under a false name since she does not appear in the Austrian records in AdR.

141. Here ends the second, undated, autobiographical sketch.

142. Information by Dimitri Moiseenko via Platten.

* It is a pleasure to thank the staff of the archives of the Foreign Ministries of France, Germany and the Netherlands, of the Belgian, Dutch and French consulates-general in Munich, of the German Embassy in Berne, and of the Austrian State Archives, the Swiss Federal Archives and the U.S. National Archives for their helpfulness and friendliness. Many thanks also to Gregor Benton (Leeds) and Gert Robel (Munich) for their suggestions. The biggest debt of gratitude I owe to Fritz Nicolaus Platten (Zurich) for sharing with me not only his considerable knowledge on the Noulens Affair but also his copy of the documents in the Comintern Archives.

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The Noulens Affair*

  • Frederick S. Litten


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